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Old 06-07-2012, 09:16 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Default DIY: Cannibalize USB Charger to Hardwire GPS

All the credit for this mod goes to bbottomley for his very detailed PM a while back. I just now got to doing this mod and wanted to share his original instructions, along with the variations I had to make to hardwire my TomTom GPS unit.

Addendum: The following write-up explains one method of hardwiring a GPS or other 12V cigarette adapter-powered unit. As with any other project or modification, there is more than one way to do this. Please refer to the additional discussion here later on in the thread. Bottom line: This hardwiring solution is for those who value a minimalistic, free (short of wire and solder) approach at the expense of modifying your GPS's original charger.

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Originally Posted by bbottomley
First, a couple of cautions:
I assume that your GPS is USB-powered. All bets are off it uses a different source of power.

There's no guarantee that your charger will be constructed quite the same way as mine, so consider these instructions to be generic in nature.
The first step in opening it up is to unscrew the ring that surrounds the center terminal. The ring, the center terminal, and the fuse should easily fall out.

Depending on how your charger is constructed, that might be all it takes to be able to separate the two halves of the housing. Or there might be a screw. Or there might be internal plastic clips. Clips was what I encountered, and gentle prying with a small screwdriver, starting at the USB end, was all it took to snap it open. If you should break a clip in the process, I'm sure you could tape the two halves back together without any problem.

At this point you should see something like this.


(I didn't notice till after I'd put my charger back together that I had reversed the threaded ring in the picture, but no big deal.)

Here's a closeup of the part that matters.


All that's left now is to remove the positive terminal spring and the negative terminal spring strips, solder wires to the red and the black wires that were connected to them (carefully insulated of course), run the wires out through the hole where the fuse and center terminal used to be, put things back together, and run the black wire to ground and the red to an appropriate 12 volt source. Depending on the source you choose you might want to use an inline fuse somewhere along the way. Note that the charger will always draw power, even when the GPS is off, so I wouldn't recommend choosing an always-on source.

Check for sharp edges on the ring before reinstalling it. You wouldn't want it to cut into the insulation. Wire gauge isn't critical here. Anything in the 18-22 gauge range would be fine.

I got my charger from DealExtreme in Hong Kong. See link in my Sources Thread. You'll have to find an appropriate USB cable to match on both ends.
Here's my version:

I had originally planned to do this mod just as above. Use a cheapo USB cigarette lighter adapter, and run my own appropriate USB cable (male type A to male 90* mini USB in my case.) However, a little research turned up that the TomTom XL's charger cable also acts as a traffic antenna/receiver for the unit. Without that specific charger, no joy on traffic updates, which I especially like on my TomTom. This was a feature I had to keep, so I decided I would instead take the risk and cannibalize the costly TomTom charger. As you can see in this picture, the TomTom unit recognizes it's included charger as a "RDS-TMC" receiver. With a plain old USB cable, you don't get this notification.



So the first step was to take apart the cigarette lighter adapter piece, just as bbottomley described. Almost all adapters should disassemble this way, since I would guess the fuse access is industry-specific. Here's my charger taken apart. If you're picky like me, discharge the capacitors once you've gotten this far. Hold on to that fuse, you'll need it later.



You'll notice that my charger is slightly different than the one above in that the circuit board has 2 grounds. Both the metal spring strips are connected to the circuit as a ground, instead of just one. All this means is that I had to solder 2 grounds wires in, and tie them together. Pictured below are my soldered and carefully insulated connections coming off the circuit board.



And here's the body of the piece clipped back together with the new connections running out. I later taped the body together with electrical tape for extra security.

Here are the two vital pieces for the rest of the wiring. On the left is an in-line fuse holder into which I replaced the fuse from the TomTom's original charger. This may be overkill as the fuses are likely of the same specs, but I figured it couldn't hurt. On the right is a mini-fuse tap I got from Advance Auto Parts. More on that later.



Here's the wiring all done. The red +12V comes out of the charger, through the in-line fuse, and to the mini-fuse tap. The ground comes straight out and terminates as a ring connector.



Now for the installation. Now would be a good time to disconnect the negative terminal of your battery. The fuse tap lets you steal power from an existing circuit, but essentially creates a new fused circuit off of it. All you do is replace the existing fuse in the fuse box with the fuse tap. The lower (pictured) fuse is the fuse for the original circuit. Here I used the same 15A fuse I removed from the "MIRROR/CIGAR" circuit. The upper (pictured) fuse with the corresponding red wire is the fuse for the new circuit being created. I just used a 10A as it was on-hand, and is really overkill since I already wired in an in-line fuse.



Now install the fuse tap unit into the fuse slot you originally removed from, and wire the ground wire to a solid nearby ground. I used the bracket for the hood release handle.



Once you've verified everything is working, continue by routing the wires however/wherever you like to get to the device you will be powering. As a temporary fix, I ran my wire up to the left of the steering column cover up to my custom TomTom mount which you can view here. Eventually, I'll sneak the wire behind the cluster and out the trim corner like Bobby (2.5x_sleeper) did with his Scangauge II wiring. More about that here. Zip tie up the extra wiring and you're done!



And the best part... The ashtray cover can stay neatly closed and your cigarette lighter/12V outlet is available for another device.
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Last edited by Wessneroo; 07-01-2012 at 01:25 PM. Reason: Addendum added in reaction to Road Pro hardwiring solution...
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Old 06-07-2012, 12:51 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Nice job, Matt. And now I don't have to do the writeup that I never quite got around to doing!

One caution to anybody who tries this with a generic USB adapter: be sure to get one with that ring at the and. Some that I've seen on the market are simply glued together and not suitable for taking apart and putting back together.
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Old 06-07-2012, 01:55 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Default I'm glad...

I don't have to do all that...

We have 9 total drivers(5 family, the other 4 are farmers who use the trucks) with 6 different GPS units. My GF likes her "get us lost" TomTom...

I prefer Garmin. I added Garmin to my Blackberry.

But yeah, good write up for those that use a GPS in one vehicle only. If I recall correctly, Magellan uses the USB cord for live traffic as well. My cousin bought this enormous 7" screen monstrosity(it looks cool though...and doubles as a bluetooth hands free speakerphone).
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Old 07-01-2012, 07:31 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Realistically, no one has to do this. It's just an option for those like me who are very picky about making things neat. The idea of the charging cord plugging into the cigarette adapter and snaking all over my dashboard makes me sick. This is an easy and inexpensive solution for those who are as picky as I am!
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Old 07-01-2012, 08:32 AM   #5 (permalink)
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Default gps hardwire

just posting another option where there is no need to modify your gps cable . you can purchase a road pro lighter socket that has two wires with aligator clips for attaching to battery . what you do is cut these aligator clips off and hardwire this to your fuse panel with same mini fuse tap. this eliminates the need to cannibalize your gps traffic update cable. After plugging your gps traffic update cable into this road pro socket it does become a little bulky but im sure all can find a place to tuck it


Instead of using a mini tap circuit i wired the road pro from headliner to the back of original lighter socket just below climate controls. i decided to eliminate the use of this socket as hopefully i will be installing some gauges to that location during power performance upgrades.

road pro socket looks like this
Amazon.com: RoadPro 12 Volt Socket with Battery Clips: Automotive Amazon.com: RoadPro 12 Volt Socket with Battery Clips: Automotive

you can see more details here
Mounting a GPS in the Forester

and here
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Old 07-01-2012, 08:36 AM   #6 (permalink)
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i bought the road pro lighter from ebay for around $6.00 w/ free shipping. i believe your local auto parts carry these also.
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Old 07-01-2012, 10:35 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by deathnerve View Post
just posting another option where there is no need to modify your gps cable . you can purchase a road pro lighter socket that has two wires with aligator clips for attaching to battery . what you do is cut these aligator clips off and hardwire this to your fuse panel with same mini fuse tap. this eliminates the need to cannibalize your gps traffic update cable. After plugging your gps traffic update cable into this road pro socket it does become a little bulky but im sure all can find a place to tuck it


Instead of using a mini tap circuit i wired the road pro from headliner to the back of original lighter socket just below climate controls. i decided to eliminate the use of this socket as hopefully i will be installing some gauges to that location during power performance upgrades.

road pro socket looks like this
Amazon.com: RoadPro 12 Volt Socket with Battery Clips: Automotive

you can see more details here
Mounting a GPS in the Forester

and here
my journal08xt 5spd//wifes journal 09xt4eat
Yup also another good option! Thanks for contributing. Like you said, the cannibalizing solution might be just a bit cleaner/less bulky.
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Old 07-01-2012, 12:24 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Wessneroo View Post
Yup also another good option! Thanks for contributing. Like you said, the cannibalizing solution might be just a bit cleaner/less bulky.
I never said the cannibalizing solution was cleaner. what i said was after plugging into the road pro socket it may become a little bulky.

Look at your quote of what I typed to see exactly what was typed or as some would type "said"



a better explanation maybe needed as: The "bulk" is concealed in between the headliner and roof plenty of space up there where it cannot be seen.

This "bulk" we are reffering to is the plug at the end of gps wire which goes into a lighter socket + road pro socket as 1 plugs into the other male/female. correct me if im wrong this "bulk" may only be slightly bigger than a cannibalized connection. Again correct me if im wrong is a lighter plug taken apart and soldering the wires from gps which then becomes a gps wire with a lighter plug at the end which has wires coming out of the plug side to wire into fuse tap.
-If this is correct does the plastic housing get put back together ?
-where does it get placed ?
I would guess plastic housing gets put back on to better protect things , and would be place somewhere out of sight up behind the dash maybe

I consider my "another option" as very clean also
- as no wires are ever visable even during use of gps
- no gps mounts are ever visable even during use as no mount is needed
-no suction cup marks or bean bags
-Heck the gps itself is rarely visable as it can only be seen when the overhead compartment is rotated open.
- when not in use nothing gps related is visable (seems clean to me)

If and when returning to stock everything is still intact including gps
1 unplug gps from road pro (hidden behind overhead compartment)
2 unplug road pro from factory lighter connector (hidden)
3 plug factory connector to back of lighter socket

all good options as no 1 option works the best for all
i am not trying to knock any option just trying to clarify what my "another option" is
sometimes I get a little defensive
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Old 07-01-2012, 01:18 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by deathnerve View Post
a little bulky
Quote:
Originally Posted by Wessneroo View Post
a bit cleaner/less bulky
Let's not get too upset over two words here... After all, I was only trying to agree with you.

One thing we can certainly agree on is that using the Road Pro introduces another piece/part/interface into this modification. For some, the benefits/functionality/convenience of adding the Road Pro are highly desirable and outweigh its cost and redundancy. I know the advantages of using the Road Pro. In fact, I almost used it for this project! In the end I decided not to use it as in my case it is an extraneous piece.

You highly value removability, reversibility, and keeping the charger untouched. This is why you chose the Road Pro solution. Great! No disagreement there.

The solution I used is also removable and reversible, but the GPS charger gets modified. I didn't want to spend the extra money on the Road Pro as (again, in my case) it wasn't necessary. If the time comes when I need to remove the GPS and charger from my vehicle, 3 minutes with the soldering iron will return my charger to stock, or $15 retail will by me a new charger. This is why I chose the solution I used. Great!

You picked your solution because it was right for you. I did likewise. /end discussion

This post will be linked to the first post in the thread as an addendum so that all who find this thread can be aware of which solution (cannibalizing, Road Pro, or the countless others) is right for them.
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Old 07-01-2012, 09:48 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Even simpler than opening the unit, just "tin" the tip and ground tab of the charger, solder on the wires, then tape or heatshrink. Faster to do, and to reverse!
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Old 08-18-2013, 08:27 PM   #11 (permalink)
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I give up. I've tried posting my pics of doing stuff based on this thread twice now, and it keeps saying my token is expired.

I still want to say thank you, though, to the folks who shared their experience in here.
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Old 08-18-2013, 08:29 PM   #12 (permalink)
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Used the fuse-tap to connect a second cigarette lighter power adapter, which I mounted beside the fuse panel, connected an old USB car adapter I hadn't used in forever, and ran it up to the dash

Clean-looking dash





On the way here now:
Apple iPhone 5 with a Case Holder with Tilt Swivel*-*ProClip USA
Subaru Forester 2009-2013 ProClip Left Mount*-*ProClip USA

UPDATE: Installed that ProClip mount. Here's the post from my Journal.
19 SEP 13 - Install ProClip phone mount on A-pillar
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Old 08-18-2013, 08:43 PM   #13 (permalink)
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^Looking good! Glad my post helped. The ProClip mounts look really nice.
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Old 08-18-2013, 09:37 PM   #14 (permalink)
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This DIY has prompted me to install my Uninterrupted Power Cable for my Itronics 100HD Dash Cam.

As neat as the wiring route looks at the moment, the cigarette lighter plug doesn't suit the ambiance of the cabin.
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Old 05-20-2014, 04:21 PM   #15 (permalink)
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Thanks for this thread. Working on this now, just waiting for fuse tap to come in mail. I'll just run mine into the far left ashtray (the fuse box cover basically) so i can stuff the usb wire in there when not using it.

I use an ecig alot while driving, and this will be a perfect power source for it instead of having to leave the ashtray open and cluttering the center console.
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